This is part two in an ongoing series evaluating the possible head coaches for the Buffalo Bills next season.
Most people would have expected the first part to be an evaluation of the biggest name out there connected with the Buffalo Bills, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
I went a different route for sentimental reasons, but fear not, for here is that evaluation.
So what exactly does Bill Cowher bring to the table as a head coach? For one, experience: 15 years as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hard to fathom in this day and age a coach staying with a team for that long. Yet he did, and for good reason.
The Steelers made the playoffs 10 times in that span and won one Super Bowl. Making the postseason 10 times is a remarkable feat.
He also brings a knowledge of how to win in similar conditions to Buffalo. The weather can be almost as bad in Pittsburgh during the winter as Buffalo. The winds and snow blow pretty hard. Cowher knows that in order to win in those conditions, a team needs to be able to run the ball and stop the run. Pittsburgh was very successful in that regard throughout his coaching career.
Only three times did Pittsburgh’s defense allow an average of 4.0 yards or better per rush in those 15 seasons (1992, 1999, 2000). Only twice in those 15 seasons did Pittsburgh’s offense average less than 4.0 yards per carry (1995, 2003). Those statistics show a commitment to what it takes to win football games in less than stellar conditions.
Oh, and only twice in those same 15 seasons did the Steelers allow their opponents to average more yards per rush (1999, 2003), and the Steelers and their opponents managed one season of identical average yards per rush (1992).
Cowher also brings passion and emotion to the team. Former head coach Dick Jauron was notable for not showing much emotion during the games or his press conferences. While the players said they loved playing for Jauron, it’s hard to believe that he was a stellar motivator.
It’s equally hard to believe that Cowher would NOT be a stellar motivator. I don’t doubt that Jauron loved football, but Cowher wears that love on his sleeve. He would fit in perfectly with Buffalo in terms of that.
So where would the problems lie with hiring Bill Cowher to coach the Buffalo Bills in 2010? There is the fact that no head coach has ever won the Super Bowl coaching two different teams. That thought will linger in the back of people’s minds if nothing else.
Another possible problem is that Cowher’s defense in Pittsburgh always ran the 3-4 as its base scheme. While it’s become all the rage across the NFL, switching to that scheme would cause some issues for the Bills.
The first issue is that the demand for 3-4 players is increasing. While the talent pool might increase from year to year, the number of teams running that scheme is increasing more rapidly. Especially with the Bills being the new kid on the 3-4 block, so to speak, they might not have a chance to get as many top-level players and instead have to settle for fringe players.
The second issue is how much the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 would set back the defense. Most of the front seven defenders in the Bills’ defense have little to no experience in a 3-4 alignment. That would mean players having to learn new techniques and positions.
That could also mean players who are successful in the 4-3 might not be as successful in a 3-4. Look at Aaron Kampman of the Green Bay Packers. One of the best 4-3 pass-rushing defensive ends, the Packers switched to a 3-4 scheme in the last offseason and asked him to become a 3-4 outside linebacker and drop back into coverage. That experiment failed pretty badly.
Now is Cowher married to the 3-4 defense? According to the USAToday.com article "Quarterbacks in a daze from the ‘3-4 defense’ maze," the Steelers have been running some form of the 3-4 defense since Chuck Noll installed it in 1983. So he may have just gone with what works.
Hopefully if the Bills hire Cowher, he will continue that trend, because the defense has kept the team in games for the past four years. A few parts need upgrading, but the offense is in much worse shape. Switching to a 3-4 would only serve to set back the defense and the team as a whole.
Bill Cowher would be a good fit in Buffalo. He would bring a winning mentality to the Bills (only three losing seasons in his career as a head coach) that has been sorely lacking for a long time. They need to have a mindset of playing to win games instead of playing not to lose, and he certainly would bring that.
I just hope that if he is brought on board, he sees past the defensive statistics and sees the defense for what it really is, instead of revamping it and setting the team back another two or three years.
Feel free to leave feedback and let me know who you want to see an evaluation of next! Stay tuned for Part Three.